After the whirlwind of the holidays, a lot of people are left feeling a little down. We are looking at a few more (less eventful) months full of snow, car scraping, and giant puffer coats. Unfortunately, in Michigan, those winter months are also fairly grey and gloomy. We are so fortunate to have our Great Lakes, however they tend to make winter life more difficult in our area. We know the winters here are worth all the beauty in our state, not to mention the wonderful communities, and limitless activities….. BUT that doesn’t do much to combat the winter blues.
So if you’re struggling to drag yourself out of your cozy bed every morning and face another chilly day, you’re not alone. Our job is to help people enjoy the small and big moments in life more; so we wanted to break down some of the causes of “winter blues,” and make some suggestions to add some joy to your life during winter.
“Just” winter blues? While many people struggle with tiredness, moodiness, and general malaise during the winter months, they may brush it off as “just winter blues.” What are the “winter blues” and why do they affect so many people?
Did you know that almost 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651)
SAD can cause you to oversleep AND overeat… not so helpful for those New Year’s resolutions. As a type of depression, SAD is not something that should be brushed off. Thankfully, residents Grand Rapids are taking their mental health seriously and getting help. In 2019, Grand Rapids had the highest rate of diagnosed depression among large U.S. cities according to a study conducted by Insurance Providers, with 25% of the population being diagnosed with a type of depression. While that statistic can seem shocking and sad, there is another way to look at it. We have a great healthcare system in place and therefore, lots of access to mental health resources.
Even if you don’t have SAD or other types of depression, you may notice some more subtle shifts in your mood and in your routine when the days get shorter.
So what can you do to bring back your sunny disposition, even if the sun stays away?
One major cause of SAD and feeling generally less joyful is social withdrawal. It can be easy to simply go through the motions when getting out of bed is a struggle, BUT spending time with family and friends can be a huge help. It may seem like a pain to try to coordinate get togethers or dinner parties, but they might just be the key to turning your frown upside down!
People who are feeling depressed are more sensitive to negative social situations, but they are also more sensitive to positive ones! This means that someone who’s struggling with SAD or another form of depression will get a stronger sense of well-being and belonging in social situations. (Steger & Kashdan, 2009).
Whether it’s making sure date night happens once a week, or hosting a dinner party, evenings with loved ones offer a lot of benefits to your mental health. For one, cooking (or learning to cook) can be a stress-relieving, creative activity. Making something tangible that can be shared with people you care about can make you feel really proud of yourself. Secondly, seeing people you care about more frequently can help you feel more gratitude and well-being. Third, having a planned evening gives you something to look forward to: a rainbow at the end of your snow-covered, icy tunnel.
“Research examining 5,000 teenagers has shown that when children eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally strong and have better mental health. Teens who ate regular family meals were also more likely to be adjusted, have good manners and communication skills. This effect is not restricted to the children – mothers who ate with their families often were also found to be happier and less stressed as compared to mothers who did not. (“9 Scientifically Proven Reasons to Eat Dinner as a Family – Goodnet”, 2020)”
AND wine may help even more. Medical News Today’s article titled: A glass of wine a day may keep depression away shares that a study conducted in Spain found: “that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol (5 to 15 g a day) were less likely to suffer from depression. Additionally, those who drank a moderate amount of wine on a weekly basis (two to seven small glasses a week), were found to have an even lower risk of depression (“A glass of wine a day may keep depression away”, 2020).”
But don’t use that as an excuse to drink away your problems, “further findings suggest that wine consumption exceeding seven glasses a week could increase the risk of depression (“A glass of wine a day may keep depression away”, 2020).” So make sure you drink responsibly.
If preparing meals feels like a chore now, try making something new or invite someone new over to share with you! We tend to take things in our routine for granted, but mixing things up reminds us how good we have it and what life offers.
Sound too stressful? We don’t judge! Cooking can be intimidating, especially if you’re already intimidated enough by regular daily life. Maybe try a new restaurant. We are lucky to have a great food and drink scene in West Michigan with plenty of healthy options as well as nice environments for conversation. The main idea is to share food and drink with others.
Take advantage of mental health resources. We’re not suggesting that shared food and drink will cure depression. Reaching out to a licensed health care provider is extremely important. However, if you are just finding daily life a little bit less joyous, a simple shared meal might bring you the joy you need to keep on keepin’ on.
Whether Tanglewood wines are part of your gatherings or not, we want to make sure you’re taking time to enjoy the small things with people you care about.
Need some hosting ideas? Check out some of our recipes and tips on our blog.
Steger, M., & Kashdan, T. (2009). Depression and everyday social activity, belonging, and well-being. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 56(2), 289-300. doi: 10.1037/a0015416
9 Scientifically Proven Reasons to Eat Dinner as a Family – Goodnet. (2020). Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.goodnet.org/articles/9-scientifically-proven-reasons-to-eat-dinner-as-family
Study: Grand Rapids has highest rate of depression nationwide. (2020). Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/health/grand-rapids-depression/69-aa4cbaf5-17e5-4586-8081-fd4f8e8a7610
A glass of wine a day may keep depression away. (2020). Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265401.php#2